Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

Summary: Our sister site CNET is reporting that Intel's Light Peak optical connectivity technology, which promises super-high-speed transfers that crush USB 3.0 transfer speeds, is moving closer to being shipped in real products.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Intel
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Our sister site CNET is reporting that Intel's Light Peak optical connectivity technology, which promises super-high-speed transfers that crush USB 3.0 transfer speeds, is moving closer to being shipped in real products.

A source says that Light Peak-wielding devices will appear in the first half, and probably closer to January than to June. That accelerated time frame means that USB 3.0 may never become the mainstream success that its 1.0 and 2.0 predecessors have been. It doesn't help the USB cause that Light Peak can move data at 10Gbps in both directions simultaneously, which trumps the transfer speeds the latest iteration of USB provides.

One big proponent of Light Peak is Apple, and the time frame of the technology's market introduction will surely fire up speculation that new Macs introduced in 2011 will be sporting it. In addition, Intel could tout Light Speed support in its newest chips; it currently does not officially support USB 3.0, though that hasn't stopped many PCs from shipping with USB 3.0 connectivity.

Light Peak also has bigger ambitions, perhaps becoming the replacement for HDMI ports as well. Already a Light Peak to HDMI converter is in the works, but it may be a tougher sell to get TV and home theater manufacturers to ditch HDMI for this new interface. In any event, this is definitely one of the stories to watch when CES and MacWorld conferences come around in January.

Topics: Hardware, Intel

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  • Light Peak

    Optical, so is it all fiber optic? - in which case it will never be backwards compatible with USB. What are the cable length restrictions? Can I get a LONG cable to my house for the internet? ;-)
    Economister
    • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

      @Economister <br><br>I followed the link to CNet and watched a YouTube video demonstration. In their lab they show a 30 meter cable as an example of long cable runs.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izNoF1SWtSg
      Admin71
    • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

      @Economister Seeing as it is using Fiber optics the only thing I ask is this: Is it child/pet proof? We all know that any cable is a big temptation for children (under a certian age of course), and pets. My cat has almost electrocuted itself several times chewing on various cords (he is a bit daft and doesn''t learn his lesson quickly). I have had to go to extreme measures to keep him safe. Now electrocution is not a problem with fiber optic but chewing on a glass fillled cable can cause other problems. I want to see them make the cables a bit tougher than what they are now. I look forward to this and will welcome it with open arms.
      murp6566@...
    • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

      @Economister
      No, it is not an all fiber cable. It is mixed with copper wires for power and fiber optic cables for data. The commercial version of the connector has not been released to the public, but it would be possible to create a light peak port that is backwards compatible with USB. The fiber optic connection could be deep in the connector so it would be undamaged by a standard USB cable. Electrical connections could be provided for a standard USB 1.1/2.0 cable so that the connector could provide both fiber optic and electrical connections.
      wdbarrett
    • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

      @Economister No, it's not really designed to have anything to do with USB... though the USB SIG has a working group trying to decide if they're going to bring this in or not.

      Light Peak is more like optical firewire than optical USB... not surprisingly, since Apple brough the concept to Intel some years ago (the learned their lesson, with Firewire, on what happens when you don't work with Intel on PC industry standard).

      As designed, it'll work over 100m glass fibers, and there will be copper lines there, too. For normal PC use, you'd want power, as with USB and Firewire, but that's unlikely to work over long wires.

      This is still a device interface. Like Firewire, it probably would work just dandy as a PC to PC network wire, but it's not designed to replace other networking standards to deliver internet your house, or route it though the house.... though if they really get 100m, it could definitely replace the GigE backbone in my house.
      Hazydave
  • What about the downsides of fiber..

    The upsides of fiber are obvious. Huge bandwidth and no worries of EM interference. This allows for longer cable runs. The downside of fiber is "It's fragile!" This will be especially obvious in the area of mobile devices. If you look in the briefcase of most road warriors you'll find at least 1 if not multiple USB cables tightly packed into one pocket or another. In mine I have 2 (1 fits my phone, MP3 player and 500 gig harddrive, the other fits my camera). Both are tightly folded into the front pocket. If I treated fiber like that it would only take a few cycles of unfolding and folding to break it. Another downside is power. My phone, MP3 player, harddrive and even my camera can be charged and powered via USB. These 2 hurdles can need to be covered before LightPeak becomes a viable alternative to USB.
    Scubajrr
    • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

      @Scubajrr

      About 15 years ago I watched a network admin/wiring guy wring a fiber patch cable down to a 1/2" radius or so around his finger without it breaking.

      A little more fragile than copper? Sure. Maybe they'll have to put some thicker rubber around the fiber to protect it a bit.
      gtvr
      • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

        @gtvr Half inch radius. Gee, next time you pull an iPod out of the box look at the packaged cable. I'll bet it's folded to less than that 1/2" radius. I work with fiber regularly and have for many years, while it has gotten better, it's still not one of those things you want to unplug, plug and move around carelessly. Even this as an aside still doesn't address powering devices.
        Scubajrr
    • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

      @Scubajrr <br><br>Not that it's the same thing, but with digital audio the cables are usually 500'. These cables are handled with some care, but aren't really babied. They are, however, in some heavy duty rubber.

      You can coil fiber quite tightly, just don't kink it and you should be fine.
      msalzberg
      • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

        @msalzberg Depends on the digital audio cables. Standard S/PDIF protocols over TOSlink use plastic fiber, which is good for 6m or so... and very dependent on the driver. TOSlink connections also use LEDs, not lasers.

        Light Peak is supposed to use lasers. The actual cabling is still a subject of debate, but in the current spec, it'll do 100m over glass fiber.

        And that might actually be more workable. The glass fiber is pretty resilient... you can crush it without really deforming it... it will eventually break, sure. Plastic fiber won't break as easily, but it deforms easily, so it'll get disrupted much sooner when bad things happen to your cable.
        Hazydave
    • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

      @Scubajrr I've worked with optical fiber for years also, and I can tell you that it doesn't break/fail just from being "folded and unfolded" (unless when you say "folding" you mean a "total fold" that would fracture the glass fiber). But if by folding you are referring just to coiling it up to stow it away for traveling, then you are off base there. Although optical fiber does need to be treated with a reasonable degree of care/respect, nevertheless it can actually take a surprising amount of handling... even bordering on "abuse". For the benefits it provides, it will do just fine. People will learn to treat it with reasonable care, and occasionally some of us will need to replace a broken fiber, when we "blow it" and fracture one... but it will work just fine. And regarding it not having USB's capabilities to provide a power source for recharging other devices... well, maybe that will allow USB to hang on and limp its way along for a while yet. But I'd say that although obviously that is a big issue to you, I don't think that's the case for the majority of USB users - certainly not for me. I don't think Intel is brain-dead enough to be blind to all of this. They know what fiber will and won't do every bit as well as you (in fact, I'd bet money that they know it even better than you do). They know it will be accepted. If you don't want to use it, hey - whatever "floats your boat".
      wa1den_b@...
    • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

      @Scubajrr
      The fragility of fiber optic cable is a myth. Fiber optic cables are actually stronger, more flexible, and more durable than most copper cables. They have an extremely tight bend radius compared to copper cables. They have Kevlar strength members in the cable that complete protect the fiber. You can wrap it around a pencil, run over it with your car, or jump up and down on it. If you want to break the fiber, you can strip away the jacket, use special scissors to cut away the Kevlar, strip off the buffer coating on the fiber, then you can break it!
      wdbarrett
  • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

    100% fiber ops? Not for USB. As some say they can't charge items.
    Who's to say the future USB cables won't have Fiber & Copper imbedded in one.
    fm-usa
    • So we just wait?

      @fvm

      So instead of switching to Light Peak, we wait for a future USB 4.0 (5.0, 6.0....) that will give us fiber with copper for power? USB 3.0 does not and will not support fiber -- it's not in the specification.
      DNSB
    • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

      @fvm
      The version of Light Peak demonstrated uses a mixed fiber-copper cable. Fiber is used for data and copper is used for power.
      wdbarrett
    • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

      @fvm There was a concept drawing of the two Light Peak optical fibers running though the plastic tab that's inside every USB A-Type connector.

      That's a possible thing, but each port would certain work in either Light Peak mode or USB mode. For one, Light Peak is supposed to daisy-chain, USB is a star topology.

      Light Peak will need copper for power, too, but there's plenty of reason to reject the +5V limits on USB, and maybe consider going to a +24V or +48V cable. That would allow much higher power limits without the need for fat power cables.
      Hazydave
  • This would be great for ...

    ... computerized test equipment. One of USB's serious limitations is its common ground which isn't noticeable for connecting things like disks and cameras, but causes huge problems for test equipment due to sneak ground loops. It can't come soon enough.
    GeneralEclectic
  • 3-try cables

    I wonder if this will have a connection on the cable end like the USB connection. I always takes me 3 tries to plug one in. First I try the right direction, but it doesn't seem to go. Then I try the opposite (wrong) direction and it doesn't go. Then I flip it again and it finally goes. They should shoot whoever designed the cable interface on USB cables. Hopefully this time they'll get it right.

    gary
    gdstark13
    • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

      @gdstark13 I agree with you entirely. The USB cable is very disappointing. Not to mention that there are too many sizes and styles. Ideally a cable will have a no-miss cylindrical connector and be small enough that the ends are the same for all devices. (camera's, printers, phones etc).<br><br>On a related note my brother did a lot of designs with credit card readers. The price for double size readers is virtually the same yet most devices only use one side readers. Very annoying when you swipe with the band on the wrong side. Better yet - design them so any swipe will work.
      SMparky
  • RE: Intel Light Peak technology moving closer to USB-killing reality

    Light Peak cables will be great for external drives and optical devices (cameras, monitors, etc.) but such speed and throughtput is not required for a number of USB devices such as printers, keyboards, mice, etc. So even if Light Peak replaces some USB connections, I can't see it totally replacing the technology.
    mdorge